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McCarty: Proposal rights, veto rights, and political bargaining

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

McCarty. 2000. Proposal rights, veto rights, and political bargaining. AJPS.

In Brief

McCarty recognizes the value of existing bargaining models, but he wishes to formulate a more general bargaining logic, one that can apply to situations other than the stylized presidential-Congressional veto game.

Objective: McCarty's Two Questions

  1. How does the allocation of proposal and veto rights affect bargaining situations?
  2. Under what conditions are proposal rights more valuable than veto rights (and vice versa)?

How the Literature has Treated McCarty's Two Questions

Three Lessons McCarty Learned from this Analysis

The Details of the Model

In brief: A proposer gets to divide a dollar. She will typically design a proposal that will create a winning coalition just large enough to override the vetoes of those outside the coalition. Since the other players vary in their veto rights, the numerical size of this coalition may vary.

Key Concepts


  1. Effects of Asymmetric Veto Rights (but equal, hence irrelevant, proposal rights):
    • Veto rights generally are helpful, unless players with identical veto rights must compete for inclusion in a single winning coalition (in which case their advantage disappears).
      • If you have lots of veto rights, you are likely to be in every winning coalition.
    • Collective veto rights lose their usefulness as the size of the collective grows.
    • Time horizons matter. Your veto is only useful if you have the patience to use it.
  2. Effects of Asymmetric Proposal Rights (but equal, hence irrelevant, veto rights):
    • Only the proposer has any chance of getting more than δvi (since the proposer offers exactly δvi to everyone else). But proposal rights only benefit you if your probability of being the proposer is high.
    • Proposal rights benefit you the most when other players have short time horizons.
  3. Interaction of Veto and Proposal Rights:
    • Increased proposal rights usually magnify the effects of veto rights (and vice versa)
    • But when the distribution of proposal rights is extreme, veto rights cease to matter.
  4. Concurrent Supermajorities (e.g. bicameral bargaining):
    • The group that needs the largest majority (i.e. the Senate) will be advantaged.

Comments and Criticism

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


McCarty, Nolan (author)American PoliticsBargainingPresidency (US)VetoCongress (U.S.)Veto PlayersLegislative-Executive Bargaining

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